Given the preoccupation of the American media with the possible closing down of the American government, and the preoccupation of American and world media with Japan's travails and the revolts in the Arab world, many Americans may have missed the news about the April 1 massacre of United Nations employees in Afghanistan.
That is unfortunate because it was as significant as it was instructive.
It began on Sunday, March 20, when a pastor named Terry Jones burned a Quran at his small church in Florida. To their credit, almost no American media covered the event, and a mere 30 people came to witness it. But Jones broadcast the offensive and asinine event on the Internet -- and did so with Arabic subtitles.
To the best of our knowledge, since Sept. 11, 2001, when 19 Muslims murdered 3,000 Americans, not one American out of a population of more than 300 million has publicly burned a Quran. Nevertheless, some Muslims in Afghanistan (and elsewhere) claimed that this one American and this one act, which was condemned by every prominent American of every religion and every political persuasion, was deemed worthy of retribution. And that retribution was the slaughter of as many non-Muslims as they could find.
On April 1, hundreds of enraged Afghan Muslims descended on a United Nations office building in Mazar-i-Sharif and murdered -- by beating, stabbing and cutting throats four Nepalese, a Norwegian, a Swede and a Romanian.
It is worth reflecting on this massacre.
Let us remind ourselves about the mindset of those Muslims and of any Muslims who agree with them. To these people, murdering any non-Muslims they can find is a just and Islamic response to the burning of a Quran.
This is important to note because it gives one a clearer picture of the type of the person the Islamist is. We have here a level of moral primitiveness unknown elsewhere in the human race. There are bad people in every religion, in every country and in every group. But we do not know of any group, let alone millions of people, who believe that murder is a proper response to an affront to their religion (or to their country or to their ethnic group).
The world's more than 2 billion Christians regularly endure far greater affronts to their religion, yet not one Christian has murdered anyone specifically because of these affronts. For example, an artist, Andres Serrano, put a crucifix in his urine and titled it "Piss Christ"; yet he knows that he doesn't have to worry about even one Christian hurting him. Likewise, not one of the museum curators whose museums have exhibited the work believe they have anything to fear from even one of the world's 2 billion Christians.
And what about the Christians regularly murdered by Muslims in Egypt, Iraq and elsewhere? Why haven't these crimes, infinitely morally worse "affronts" than the burning of a Quran -- or a Bible -- produced anything analogous to the enraged Muslims in Afghanistan?
The frequent and large demonstrations in the Muslim world against affronts -- real and imagined -- to Islam need to be juxtaposed with the utter absence of demonstrations against the now-routine murdering of innocents in the name of Islam.
Even the notion of religious affront needs to be examined. Isn't evil done in the name of one's religion more of an affront than evil done against one's religion? I suspect this is how nearly every Jew and Christian thinks. The vast majority of Christians would be considerably more affronted by murders of innocents in the name of Christ than by insults -- like "Piss Christ" -- to Christ. Why, then, isn't the Muslim world more affronted by all the Muslims who shout "Allah is the greatest" while cutting the throats of innocent men, women and children than by illustrations of Muhammad in a Danish newspaper or the burning of a Quran by a crackpot in Florida?
Unfortunately, the moral confusion wasn't confined to Afghanistan. Though in no way morally equivalent, we Americans exhibited our own form of moral confusion in regard to the Quran burning.
Joe Klein, political commentator for Time magazine, morally equated Terry Jones and the Afghan murderers: "There should be no confusion about this: Jones's act was murderous as any suicide bomber's."
Anyone with common sense knows that there is no moral equivalence between destroying a book, no matter how holy, and destroying a human life. So how does one explain Klein's statement?
Klein is a leftist, and his comment embodies two aspects of the contemporary left.
One is the left's hard time identifying and confronting real evil.
Instead of focusing on Islamism, the left focuses on small evils like alleged pay gaps between men and women working at the same job or on non-evils such as carbon dioxide emissions. Or they engage in moral equivalence: The Muslim murderers are no worse than Terry Jones.
The other characteristic of the left embodied in Klein's statement is what George W. Bush called the "soft bigotry of low expectations." It is clear that Klein has contempt for Muslims. If Christians had slaughtered innocents because of "Piss Christ," it would never have occurred to Klein to write, "There should be no confusion about this: Serrano's act was as murderous as any slaughtering Christians."
With Islamism dominating major parts of the Muslim world, and leftism dominating much of the non-Muslim world, these are not the best of times.